UNC Asheville-Duke Preview
Over the weekend, a star-studded duo of newcomers confirmed it will be headed to Durham to play for Duke.
This season's pairing of first-year players is already faring quite nicely for coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils seem likely to make it 104 straight non-conference home wins Monday night when they face a second straight overmatched opponent in UNC Asheville in the first round of the Preseason NIT.
Point guard Tyus Jones and center Jahlil Okafor publicly committed to the Blue Devils (2-1) on Friday during nationally televised ceremonies roughly 450 miles apart as a package deal.
Jones and Okafor will try to provide the same instant impact Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have as Duke's leading scorers early. Those superstars had 49 points in Friday's 97-64 rout of Florida Atlantic.
Hood, a transfer from Mississippi State, had a career-high 28 of those points and Parker added 10 rebounds while becoming the first freshman under Krzyzewski to score at least 20 in his first three straight games.
"Points come. It's more of what I do after that - hustle, if I get defensive plays. That's what wins games," Parker said. "Offense is always going to be there because of the attention that's on both of us.
The duo has accounted for 45.0 percent of the Blue Devils' points.
Duke is shooting 58.6 percent to rank among the nation's leaders and can be expected to turn in another gaudy mark from the field against UNC Asheville (1-2), which has already experienced what it is like to be on the short end against one of the nation's powerhouses.
The Bulldogs opened the season at then-No. 1 Kentucky in an 89-57 loss Nov. 8, in coach Nick McDevitt's debut. UNC Asheville trailed by 10 at the break before the more powerful Wildcats shot 54.8 percent over the final 20 minutes.
McDevitt got a close-up view of one of the nation's best freshmen in that contest in Julius Randle, who manhandled his club for 23 points and 16 boards in his first game.
Now UNC Asheville must take another top freshman in Parker, who is shooting 58.5 percent to rank behind Hood's mark of 69.0 percent. Krzyzewski is trying to lessen the pressure on Parker.
"Our team is young together," the Hall of Fame coach said. "Obviously Jabari's a really good player but he's just played his third college game. Everyone says he's really good and he is, but he's not who he's going to be."
Another player who has just played three games in his career is Bulldogs freshman Andrew Rowsey, averaging a team-best 19.7 points.
Rowsey led the way with 23 points as McDevitt earned his first victory Friday, 67-58 in overtime at the College of Charleston. D.J. Cunningham added 12 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
"Everyone who played contributed tonight," McDevitt told the Bulldogs' official website. "We got big plays from everyone and that's what you have to have when you play a good team on the road."
The Blue Devils won 99-56 in the only previous meeting with UNC Asheville on Dec. 17, 2008. Assuming Duke wins this one, it will face either East Carolina or Norfolk State on Tuesday for the right to advance to the tournament semifinals in New York.